Monday, May 27, 2013

Doing Some Rearranging

We visited my husband's mom this weekend, and she gave me a Christmas present that somehow got missed in December. So even though we came, in part, to wish her a happy birthday, I ended up with a gift, too.
Bewitched Barbie (Pink Label collectible)
Love her! Yes, yes, I have been a pretty staunch critic of Barbie, and Mattel in general, but I have a real weakness when it comes to the witchy ones. (My husband calls me a Halloweenie. 'Nuff said?) Anyway, this one has the awesome vintage face that looks cool and a little aloof, instead of the vapidly empty smile that the modern face has. (Although this is one of two (?) Bewitched Barbies, and the other one has the modern face but doesn't look as stupid as some of them do.)

Years ago, a friend and coworker also worked at FAO Schwarz when they had an exclusive Samantha doll (made by Exclusive Premiere). He got her for me, and I was happy to get it, but the doll looks about as much like Elizabeth Montgomery as I do. The box is definitely the coolest part.

Since I picked up the FAO Schwarz  doll in '97, I've also been collecting the Hallowe'en Barbies. I don't have all of them, but I will, and I can't display them with my action figures, because I need more room for both. I had a thought last night, and decided it would make the most sense to move the dolls into the children's library/guest room. I already have a shelf in there dedicated to all my witch-themed children's books, and since making that room over as a children's library sort of interrupted my plans to make that room with a New Orleans/Mardi Gras vibe, maybe I can make them mesh together...

I found a woman's blog this morning with photos of how she's made her Hallowe'en Barbies into a seasonal diorama/display, and it's pretty awesome. I figure if I can get a nice long shelf or two, I can make a creepy southern-style backdrop with images of trees dripping with Spanish moss (or make my own with branches and dyed cheesecloth), get some Barbie-sized props like Valerie did, and I have a swampy, creepy, Southern-fried Hallowe'en display. And since New Orleans is also home to a huge annual Hallowe'en celebration (and the former home of Anne Rice), it's really not much of a stretch. However, this does mean I have yet another project on top of the hundreds I already have.

Anyway, I think it'll work out. I've already cleared them off the single crowded shelf downstairs, and hauled them all upstairs, getting some of them displayed.

One of two bookshelves that flank the bed in the guest room. The second shelf is my
collection of witchy children's books, and a naked 1972 Emerald Witch doll.
The Secret Spells dolls aren't Hallowe'en specific, but I think these came out around the height of the popularity of the show Charmed.
The Secret Spells dolls I had to run all over hell to get when they went on clearance, to get all three.
Naturally, these were not popular with the ultra-conservative set. (More reason to love them.)

They sit atop a tall desk in the corner. Because their packaging is so cool, I'll probably leave them boxed (and get the rest of the price stickers off the front of the boxes).

The bookshelf on the other side of the bed has four more boxed dolls. And it's fine like that, but because of the height, they're not as visible, and I am really loving the diorama idea; they may not stay up there. (Could be really bad-ass if I do it right, you know?)

See? Just not very interesting! (Yes, the room really is painted a pea-soup green. It was that color when we bought the house. Initially I hated it but it's grown on me, and now I think I can make it work with the "swamp" theme.)
Plus, I have these...
...that need a home, and why leave those four all alone up there, when they can be displayed out of their boxes, with the rest of the girls? And the ones missing from the collection, that I have yet to acquire...

My only real concern about putting them in the children's library/guest room is that it is the children's library, and I'd prefer my daughter not play with them. So they may stay boxed, at least until I'm sure she won't run off with them.

I couldn't stand it: I took them out of the boxes, and got the shelf all arranged. My birthday present to me was playing with dolls.

See? Much better than sitting in boxes!
Tutorial for making the tree here. I found black doll stands, and they nearly disappear (I am a firm believer in black stands -- white reflects so much more light and is a lot more obtrusive.) I had a tiny tealight holder that looks like a cauldron, with a pumpkin cut-out face, and purple glitter. It turned out to be exactly the right size for the Kelly-and-friends dolls.

FYI: They aren't warming their hands...
This was the first arrangement, before the other dolls were added.
I am particularly pleased with how the Barbie "coven" turned out. Clearly adding more props isn't practical, but I'd love to add some tomb fa├žades (New Orleans graves are mostly above ground because they are below sea level) to put as background. I have another shelf, too, and more Hallowe'en dolls to add to the collection, but this is a great start.

Something I noticed as I was unboxing them, there is great variation in the Barbie faces. Not just different makeup, but whole new sculpts. I think my favorite face is the Halloween Glow Barbie, in the lavender and black dress.

Halloween Treat (2009), Happy Halloween† (2010), Trick or Chic† (2006), Halloween Hip (2006)

Halloween Enchantress (2004), Halloween Glow (2002), Enchanted Halloween (2000), Halloween Star (2005), Halloween Charm (2007)
Missing from my collection of Hallowe'en Barbies († indicates Target exclusive dolls):
  • Halloween Fun† (with Kelly, 1997, not a priority - not witchy)
  • Halloween Party† (with Ken, 1998, not a priority - not witchy)
  • Halloween Fun† (with Kelly, 1999, not a priority - not witchy)
  • Halloween Princess† (2001, not witchy but she's way cool)
  • Perrr-fectly Halloween† (2002, not a priority - not witchy)
  • Maskerade [sic] Party (2002, not a priority - not witchy)
  • Halloween Wishes (2005)
  • Halloween Party (2007)
  • Trick or Chic (2008)
  • Fashion Spell (2009)
  • Pink Halloween† (2009)
They will be mine...!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Don't Get It

When I sadly learned of Ray Harryhausen's death earlier this month, I sat down to watch Clash of the Titans. I'd forgotten what a fun film that is, and just how awesome his artistry was, and is, even in this day of CGI. Clash of the Titans was his last movie, made in 1981. (The remake, made in 2010, was awful.)

Mattel made the tie-in toys for the movie. They did 3 3/4" action figures for Perseus, Calibos, Thallo, and Charon..?! (Charon, really? He was on screen for like 2 minutes, max.) There were also figures for Pegasus and the Kraken. No Andromeda... the reason for Perseus to go and kill Calibos and later the Kraken. No Medusa... his only means of killing the Kraken. In what universe does that make sense? Another blogger postulates that Mattel didn't have strong enough sales to put much effort into a big toy line, cancelling a second wave of toys before they hit the shelves. I'm not the only one who noticed the lack of these important figures, either. CantinaDan at Action Figure Insiders has several suggestions for things that should have been in Mattel's lineup. 

Because I'm me, it irritates and puzzles me why (for either movie) there were no figures for Andromeda or Medusa. Yes yes, fine, "boys don't play with female figures" (coughbullshitcough), that might explain Andromeda, but it doesn't explain Medusa, who (it could be argued by some -- not me) is more monster than female, or at least monster enough for boys to overlook the fact that she's female. Look, I know the film is 22 years old, but really, how could you not make Medusa, Mattel?? I don't get it. She was absolutely essential to the story! *sigh*

I would like to sit down with people at Mattel -- generations of them! -- and have a wee chat about some of the dumb things they've done, and continue to do. (The gender segregation on your website, Monster High -- age 6, really?!, the really vomitous redo of Merida...)

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Joy of Discovery (Off-Topic)

This is an off-topic post, as it doesn't deal with feminism, action figures, or heroines. But it's my blog, so I write what I want, and I want to write about this.

I had heard of Kickstarter and crowd-funding before the blow-up over Sarkeesian's Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, but visiting the site to back that project was the first time I'd been involved with it. Some of the things I've backed have been things I stumbled on while browsing the site, but most of them have come to my attention through other sources sharing projects. So not only crowd funded, but crowd publicized. And that's one of the marvelous things about social media.

The latest thing that caught my attention was shared on Geek Magazine's Facebook page, a project called BLOOD KISS. I watched the video, and I was sold.

I've been a vampire fan for a long time. This is to be a film noir vampire movie, set in 1940s Hollywood. But I also love some of the things writer Michael Reaves has worked on in the past. His IMDb page is lengthy, but a couple of the things that jumped out at me were Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Gargoyles. The fact that Neil Gaiman is on board with the project didn't hurt, I'll admit. The Daily Dead interviewed Reaves and others, getting exclusive details about Blood Kiss, and just makes it sound more exciting.

When he took it to his agent, the guy loved it but said he couldn't sell it. *sigh* Hollywood sucks, y'all. They'll remake every movie that never needed remaking in the first damn place, but nothing original ever happens... And that's where crowd-funding comes in. Which brings me back 'round to social media.

It's so exciting to be involved with something like this, something that, if I had missed the Geek Magazine post about Blood Kiss, I might have missed it entirely. Let's make sure other people don't miss this. The more money Reaves and his Kickstarter earn for this project, the better the movie will be. So please share this widely, tell people about it. The more people we tell, the more people might get involved and see this made, and made well.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why Glitter Matters

The internet exploded when it witnessed a redesigned Merida (from Disney/Pixar's Brave film released last summer). She was inducted as a princess at a coronation ceremony, but she looked a wee bit different than what we remembered from the movie... something wasn't quite right.
Ah, that's what it is! Someone threw glitter all over that poor girl! Now, if you've seen the movie, you'll note she's wearing the hated dress. She felt constricted and confined in it and ripped seams in the scene where she was shooting "for her own hand." So not only is she now stuck in the dress, but now it's sparkly. They also nipped in her waist, made the dress off the shoulder, added makeup... and generally took away everything that made her stand out as a heroine. What they did was remove all traces of her personality, just like they did with all the other princesses.

Brenda Chapman, who wrote and directed the film (before she was removed, and was demoted to "co-director"), is furious about it. More than 191,000 people have signed a petition (as of this writing), in protest of this redesign. John Kovalic, the Dork Tower cartoonist, also weighed in on this issue, rather hilariously.

And yet, all over the internet, people are saying "what's the big deal? so they made her look like the rest of the princesses! so what?" Parents and authors have been complaining quite a bit about the sexy looks for the princesses, marketed to very young girls. Cinderella Ate My Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein is a book by one of those parents. She writes in that book:
I didn’t know whether Disney Princesses would be the first salvo in a Hundred Years’ War of dieting, plucking, painting (and perpetual dissatisfaction with the results). But, for me they became a trigger for the larger question of how to help our daughters, with the contradictions they will inevitably face as girls, the dissonance that is as endemic as ever to growing up female. It seemed, then, that I was not done, not only with the princesses, but with the whole culture of little girlhood: what it had become, how it had changed in the decades since I was a child, what those changes meant and how to navigate them as a parent.
And the people who say that it's happened to the other princesses are absolutely right! ALL of them have been altered from their movie forms. They've become somewhat generic, empty-headed, pretty girls who are simply decorative. And it's been a very deliberate move on Disney's part to homogenize the looks of these girls. It's their brand, and they are very protective of it, and very savvy about everything they do. (They underestimated their audience with Merida, clearly.) Matthew Bogarts touches on Merida and why character design matters in his Tumblr post "The Brave and the Bold." (He did a redesign for Batman you really must see.)

Others have also pointed out that the non-white princesses are getting pushed to the
margins, with Snow White being the exception in the above image.
I won't rehash every argument online; that would take days, and it would only be depressing. Instead I will share with you a bit of brilliance by the artist David Trumble. The article he wrote for the Huffington Post is definitely worth reading, but take a look here:

"How many of these women would be improved by a few extra sparkles?" From left to right: Marie Curie, Anne Frank, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Harriet Tubman, Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jane Goodall, Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony
Trumble took some marvelous examples of female role models from several different eras and areas of expertise, and to them he gave a makeover worthy of a princess. Now a few people have been making "gag" comments about these new "princesses" but I think they're missing the point, and an awesome opportunity.

Yes, Trumble is making a (wonderful) point here: giving them big eyes and sparkles doesn't improve on the original. But what if... what if some company took this idea and ran with it (after backing a dump truck of cash up to Trumble's front door). What if those women really were made as dolls?

Compare to the far right "princess" above
Yes, girls want pretty things, and want to be pretty themselves. Susan B. Anthony had a very strong face, absolutely not pretty by today's standards. You couldn't make a doll from the image above and expect a 5 year old to want to play with her... So, if someone were to use Trumble's designs, but take away the glittery bits, market these amazing woman and girls as "adventure dolls," give them appropriate accessories (miniature notebooks and cameras for Goodall, a diary that girls can write in for Frank, schoolbooks for Yousafzai, a chemistry set for Curie, etc.) and you would have an amazing line of dolls that any parent would be thrilled to allow their kids to have. I'd buy them!

"But it was meant as satire," you may be saying. Yes, I know, but if parents had those dolls, slightly glammed-up up versions of the real women, and the girls who played with them learned a little about how awesome those ladies were and are, these dolls could be a gateway to a generation of girls who don't let anything stand in the way of their dreams. These dolls (and god do I wish I was a billionaire so I could make it happen) could be the beacon in the darkness shining a light on the path of greatness. All it would take was the right kind of marketing. Yes, marketing... as brilliant as these dolls could be, they'd be fighting an uphill battle with all the Barbies and the Bratz and the Monster Highs, but as fed up as so many of the parents are (myself included), I still believe it could work. Set them to release on March 1st for the beginning of Women's History Month, and social media outlets will go nuts.

Seriously. Somebody please make this happen!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Trixie Belden: Tomboy Detective

Early in the '80s, I "discovered" Trixie Belden. I was never into Nancy Drew (whose first book was published in 1930), but I devoured the Trixie books.

The Trixie books first came out in 1948. The last book was published in 1986. Altogether, the series has 39 titles. I spent my allowance and birthday money on them, reading them as quickly as I could get my hands on them. When I was older, I sold them all in a garage sale... that was foolish of me. When my daughter was born, I started recollecting them, not with any particular urgency. I still don't have them all.

What I found so engaging about Trixie was her impishness, her tomboyishness, her utter lack of perfection -- things that made me not like Nancy. The stories are pretty timeless, too. When I was reading them as a kid, I had no sense that those first books were more than four decades old by the time I read them.

Even her little cameo there distinguishes her from Nancy. She's freckled and her hair's untidy.
Nancy is like Detective Barbie in that version on the right.
Trixie is so much more relatable.
I just finished a fantastic online class about gender in comic books. As classes like that tend to do, it has made me look critically at gender in other media, as well. It's made me think about comic books, and lack of female representation. It's made me think about who would make a good heroine and role model for girls. And this afternoon, it occurred to me that Trixie Belden and the Bob-whites would make an awesome comic book. (Assuming the illustrator could manage not to make her all sexy -- because that would be gross and wrong.) Unfortunately, it looks like Random House has the license for the books. They've reprinted the first 14, but none of the others since 2006, at least not that I can determine. So while it's a huge publishing house with lotsa lawyers, it's not been a successful purchase for them from Golden Books (or they would have reprinted the entire series), so maybe they'd be more willing to OK a comic book. *shrug*

Note to anyone out there who wants to take this on: I would totally buy a Trixie Belden comic book (so long as you didn't turn her into a sexpot).

When I was reading the series as a kid, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a detective, and I was more than a little in love with Jim. She was spunky and smart, fearless and impetuous... and likeable. She was real to me, relatable on a level that Nancy Drew never was. (I dislike Nancy for the same reasons I dislike Superman: that kind of goody-goody perfection is just annoying.) I think heroines like that are in pretty short supply. I know good heroines are scarce in comic books, and goodness knows there aren't many options for comic books aimed at young adult girls.

Now I know I'm likely in the minority here, I know that Nancy is a lot more popular as girl detectives go, but our girls need Trixie.